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Mortal Engines

Films set in a post-apocalyptic world tend to be rather dour affairs. It would be under the circumstances but works such as ‘Mad Max’ and ‘Waterworld’ don’t bode well for humanity’s future. ‘Mortal Engines’ presents a more interesting take on the course the world may take. Its interpretation of a steampunk infused universe provides an eye-catching gloss with the hint of optimism showing the path ahead may not be so bleak.

In a world where entire cities are motorised and prey on each other, its inhabitants are continually cautious. Tom (Robert Sheehan) gets caught up in an assassination plot against powerful industrialist Thaddeus Valentine (Hugo Weaving). The would-be assassin, Hester (Hera Hilmar), blames Thaddeus for her mother’s death. Events swiftly unravel as the machinations of evil do their best to prevent unspeakable secrets from being discovered.

Based on Phillip Reeve’s novel ‘Mortal Engines’ is a collage of famous moments from other films. ‘Star Wars’ and the ‘Indiana Jones’ series receive nods amongst the dazzling CGI. Whilst such copying would sink similar productions, ‘Mortal Engines’ thrives due to its novel concept and fine performances. The screenplay and Christian Rivers’ strong direction ensure things feel fresh and move at a great pace. They assure you are fully invested in this odd universe of mechanical marvels and fully fleshed out characters.

Weaving has a grand time as a very wicked villain as does the rest of the cast who dive into the fantastical antics with gusto. The special effects and photography are excellent with the musical score pleasing to the ears. Although the story relies on contrived clichés it’s an amiable enough ride with the villainy and heroics captivating in equal measures. The imaginative scope and the film’s scale demand it be seen on a big screen with a genuinely tense race to the fiery finale.

Amidst a glut of sci-fi and fantasy films ‘Mortal Engines’ carves a solid place amongst the crowd. It is entertaining escapist fun without the cynical heart others have. Fans of such works should enjoy it with the steampunk movement sure to receive a boost from this magical caper.

Rating out of 10: 7

The Old Man and the Gun

Movie stars never die as they live on within the celluloid frame. Whilst some have had long careers, others have vanished after their brush with fame has ended. Actor and director Robert Redford has had a stellar career with countless excellent movies to his name. But as with most mere mortals, time has caught up with Redford who has announced that ‘The Old Man and the Gun’ will be his last starring work. It’s a good one to go out on with a script that effectively utilises his strong talents. With a strong supporting cast, Redford’s silver screen finale provides a fitting farewell to a consistently reliable performer.

Forrest Tucker (Robert Redford) is a career criminal refusing to give up a life of crime. Upon escaping from San Quentin prison, Forrest continues his crime spree much to the chagrin of detective John Hunt (Casey Affleck). Appalled but impressed by Tucker’s exploits, Hunt attempts to bring him to justice. The only one who seems to love Tucker is Jewel (Sissy Spacek) who stands by her man no matter what. With the stakes rising, Tucker appears determined to go out in a blaze of criminal glory.

‘The Old Man and the Gun’ is production embracing its old fashioned confines. There’s no quick-fire CGI-infused action or fast editing but a gently paced character driven story based on real events. As outlandish as some of his exploits were, Tucker was a real person who seemed to thrive on his criminal ways. He truly felt alive by committing crimes and escaping his various prison confines – with a grand total of 16 successful escape attempts. ‘The Old Man and the Gun’ smooths out Tucker’s rough edges by focussing instead on his desire to live life by his terms no matter the consequences.

This is Redford’s movie all the way to which he brings his usual charismatic charm. Spacek and Affleck provide solid back-up with characters you come to understand. Tom Waits and Danny Glover also appear as Tucker’s co-horts and it’s always a pleasure seeing these acting veterans flex their thespian muscles. David Lowery’s direction is sublime with several excellently realised sequences. His use of music and photography is first rate, showing a director of visual flair whilst concentrating on the always engaging if quirky script.

You get a sense that Redford is saying a long goodbye throughout ‘The Old Man and the Gun’. The ending certainly underscores this and he goes out in great style. He’ll be missed on the cinematic landscape but his incalculable contribution in front and behind the camera won’t be forgotten as this fine movie proves.

Rating out of 10: 7